Here’s one of those partial Great War Films I occasionally watch. For any one of a thousand reasons some of the films on my list aren’t primarily about the Great War but they do have something Great Warish (Great Warry?) about them. My film today is one of those films.
‘Admiral’ (2008) is a biopic of a Russian guy I knew absolutely nothing about. From wikipedia I’ve gleaned that Alexander Kolchak came from a minor noble family, he spent a fair amount of his early years on scientific research and cartographic missions to the polar regions. Later he would be instrumental in the rebuilding of the Russian Fleet following the Russo-Japanese war. By the start of the Great War he was in charge of his own warship (this is where the film kicks in so **SPOILER ALERT**) and would go on to lead the White Russians against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution, become Supreme Ruler of Russia for about 18 months and then end up being executed and chucked into a freezing river.
Although it starts during the Great War and the war is the catalyst of the story it’s not directly about the war. The story is much more about the two revolutions in Russia in 1917 and the subsequent Russian Civil War. Here’s a quiz question for you: in which month did the February Revolution of 1917 take place? Answer: March. It’s all down to the use in Russia of the Julian Calendar apparently compared to the Gregorian one. The February Revolution began on the 7th of March 1917. Also the October Revolution started in……you guessed it, November.
Anyway, enough of this Julian Calendar craziness. The film opens with some slightly dodgy CGI. I’m instantly reminded of ‘Canakkale 1915’ and groan lightly to myself. But it quickly improves. It’s a breath of fresh air to be honest. There aren’t many Great War Films set on boats so it’s instantly grabbed me by the balls. We are thrown into a battle and we get to see some quite jarring gore within the first few minutes. Is this setting the tone for what is to come? No. Other than a couple of land battle scenes later on that’s pretty much all the real action. From here on in it’s political machinations and, of course, a love story.
The love story is really the essence of what the film is about, which is a bit of a shame. Alexander Kolchak is an interesting enough character that the film of his life could’ve gone in many different directions. It’s maybe a bit easy and lazy of the writers to choose a love story as a means of getting their story across. Why not challenge us, as viewers, with something a bit different rather than drag out a paint by numbers story. The love story begins with Kolchak stealing a subordinate’s girlfriend, wooing her and then quickly telling his wife to pack her bags and hop it, sharpish without seeming to give a toss about anyone’s feelings.
The writers have at least kept in a lot of the historical stuff to go along with the love story guff. We get details about Kolchaks’ movements around Russia and his setting up of a Government seat in Omsk. We see the executions of various senior army personnel during the February Revolution and many of the push-pull political machinations of the Russian Civil War. Interesting Kolchak is considered a baddie by the majority of Russians for his pro-western/anti-Bolshevik stance. Apparently this majority view is slowly changing.
There are the usual rubbish bits that I’ve grown to expect in movies like these. The CGI, as I said, is what you’d expect from a film knocked out in 2008. It’s okay but obviously not real. There’s the swelling orchestration used to elicit an emotional response in lieu of good writing and there’s the shitty love story which lacked any chemistry. On the plus side the naval battle scenes were excellent and the land battles, although lacking scale and re-enacted with minimal extras, was well put together and did manage to elicit at least a bit of emotion from me as a viewer.
Overall, I kind of liked it. The early sea battle scenes were refreshing and different to what else is out there and a historical document of the Russian Revolution is an interesting subject matter for me because I don’t know anything about it. I liked the historical accuracy, I didn’t like the love story but I kind of get why the writers had it in there. So, would I recommend it? Probably not. Well maybe, if you have an interest in the characters and battles of the Russian Revolution. Clicky Clicky if this is you.